Sunday, February 22, 2015

4.5 Ninja Stars for "When Buddhists Attack"

Review of "When Buddhists Attack"

In the interest of full disclosure, I was given this book by the publisher for review purposes.

Title: When Buddhists Attack: The Curious Relationship Between Zen and the Martial Arts
Written by: Jeffrey K. Mann
Publisher: Tuttle Publishing
Pages: 221
Cover Price: $16.95

    If you've practiced Japanese martial arts, you've probably heard some of the ideas that are part of Zen Buddhism mentioned in your practice.  Mushin, zanshin, and others are always discussed as part of the mental or the, for lack of a better word, spiritual portion of the art.  When Buddhists Attack is a book which not only discusses what these Zen ideas are, and how they became associated with the martial arts, but Dr. Mann also answers the more important question of "why".  Why did Zen became intertwined with Japanese martial arts.  


  The book roughly separated into three content portions.  The first is a generalized history of Buddhism, with an emphasis on the Zen branch.  It includes some of the basics of Japanese, and by default samurai, history.   It then starts to discuss how and when it Zen become part of the Japanese culture, specifically the culture of the samurai.  The second delves into why these ultimately practical warriors would willingly adapt this new philosophy.  What did they get out of it.  It also includes a deeper discussion into some some of the specific Zen aspects that influence martial artists today.  Dr. Mann does a good job of explaining mushin in a way that is more in depth and more decipherable than I've ever read before.  I admit, I had a shallow understanding of the term, and the book discusses the shallow meaning, and why that isn't enough.  The third section is a sort of closing argument which talks about how zen can and is being used today in dojo, and even discusses the zen of competition arts such as kendo or judo.


    This book, although focusing on a very specific point of reference, goes through a generalized history of Japan and the samurai and explains how and why zen came to be entwined with the ideas and teachings of martial arts that of Japan.  It explains the often confusing Zen ideas in less esoteric ways than many other books on the subject.  To that end, this book is either filled in a lot of information I was missing, or deepened my understanding of what I did know.  As with any book on philosophy it naturally has to be a thought provoking book, and it was.  It is dense with information.  I had to take my time with this book.  I had to read it in smaller bites.
    The author also is good at taking the parts of Zen most martial artists are exposed to and explaining them in terms and ideas most martial arts would understand.  The book has a very informational way of saying "if you want to get better at martial arts, then here is how Zen can help you."  This makes it a practical philosophy book, at least from a martial arts perspective.


    The only negative I can see is that the part of the book that I liked, may be bad for other people.  Because of the informational density, I wouldn't recommend this book, if this is your very first exposure to the ideas of zen.  Even though it does a good job explaining them, it could be a bit overwhelming.  It does jump quickly into the deep end with the philosophies.  I think the reader would be well served to have a cursory idea of what the ideas and philosophies of Zen are first.  That being said, many martial artists would have probably been exposed to some of these ideas either inadvertently or on purpose through their martial studies anyway.


    I've had this book on my wishlist since it came out in 2012.  I thoroughly enjoyed reading it, and I learned a lot from it.  Which I guess is the best praise you can give a book.  As such, I'm going to give this book 4.5 out of 5 ninja stars.  The only reason it isn't a full 5 ninja stars is that you have to have some exposure to zen to fully understand what is being said throughout the book.  That being said, I'm going to shelve this one, and come back to it in a couple of years, and see how much more I understand at that point.  It's that good of a book.

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Episode XXIV-I Came, I Saw, I Podcast

Episode XXIV- I Came, I Saw, I Podcast

Download the Podcast HERE



Intro:  Theme from "Enter the Dragon" by Lalo Schifri

  Recorded On: February 18th, 2015
  Snowed in, in Nashville

Interlude Music: Godzilla by Blue Oyster Cult

  NBC's Warrior
    AMC's Badlands
    Lance Gross
    Natalie Martinez
    Will Yun Lee
      Hawaii 5-0
      True Blood
      Marvel's The Wolverine
  Paratroopers become resilient force through Kung Fu
     Tagou Shaolin Martial Arts School in Henan China
  In Democratic Republic of Congo, Martial Arts Helps Children Get Away From Fighting
  Martial Arts taught to employees
  Argentinian Guillermo Grispo is the man behind the "Kingsman" fight scene
    Guillermo Grispo
    Wesley Snipes
    Blade 2
    X-Men: First Class
    Iron Man 2
    Kingsman: The Secret Service
    Colin Firth
    Superman vs. Batman

Interlude Music: Baby Please Don't Go by Van Morrison

Interview: Gershon Ben Keren 
  Krav Maga: Real World Solutions to Real World Violence
  Neal Adams
  Brian Jacks
  Krav Maga
  IDF (Israeli Defense Forces)
  Krav Maga Yashir
  Irmi Lichtenfeld
  Goju ryu Karate
  Shorin ryu Karate
  "The situation determines the solution."
  Grayson and Stein Study
  Victim Identifiers
    Eyeline Down
    Unnatural Stride Length to Height
    Upper Body moved out of sinc with their lower body 
  Jedi Mind Trick
  Jigoro Kano
  The Equilizer
  Contact Information
Interlude Music: Long Distance Runaround by Yes

This Week in Martial Arts: February 22nd
  National Ninja Day
    Iga and Koka
  Kung Fu Premires on ABC (2/22/1970)
    David Carradine
    Kung Fu: The Movie
    Brandon Lee
    Kung Fu: The Next Generation
    Kung Fu: The Legend Continues
    Baz Luhrman

Contact Information
Twitter Account: @martialthoughts
Atemicast Youtube Channel

Outro Music: Voodoo Chile-Jimi Hendrix / Gayageum ver. by Luna

Monday, February 16, 2015

Episode XXIII-Live Long and Podcast

Episode XXIII-Live Long and Podcast

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Download the Podcast HERE



Intro:  Theme from "Enter the Dragon" by Lalo Schifri

  Recorded: February 2nd, 2015
  Kris Wilder Interview (Kris Wilder's Website)
Interlude Music: Space Trucking by Deep Purple
Interview: Lawrence Kane
  Sensei Yamada
  Seattle Judo
  Goju ryu Karate
  Rory Miller
  Iain Abbernathy
  Marc "Animal" McYoung
  Loren Christiansen
  The Little Black Book of Violence
  Scaling Force
  Dirty Ground
  How to Win a Fight
  The 87 Fold Path
  Journey: The Martial Arts Notebook
  Martial Arts Instruction
  The Way of Kata
  The Way to Black Belt
  Sensei, Mentor, Teacher, Coach
  The Institute of Traditional Martial Arts at University of New Mexico
  International Ryukyu (Karate) Research Foundation Society Journal
  Blinded by the Night
  William C. Deitz
    The Mutant Files
  Getting to We
  The Tarkin Docterine
  Mortal Kombat (Trailer)
  Jason Stathem
  Mortal Kombat: Legacy
  Punisher: Laundry Day Dirty Laundry

Contact Information
    Amazon Author Page
    YMAA Author Page

Interlude Music: Outshined by Soundgarden

This Week in Martial Arts: circa Jan 25th, 1701
  Chris West from Samurai Archives Podcast
  47 Ronin/The Ako Incident

Interlude Music: Spacelord by Monster Magnet

Contact Information
Twitter Account: @martialthoughts
Atemicast Youtube Channel

Outro Music: Voodoo Chile-Jimi Hendrix / Gayageum ver. by Luna

Saturday, February 14, 2015

What motivates you to take martial arts?

A Valentine's Day Post

    I've been doing martial arts for over a dozen years now.  That's longer than some, but not as long as other, better people.  The question is why do I keep them?  Why do I, and I assume the reader, spend so much time and energy away from easier pursuits. There has to be something to these arts.  Myself and several other martial arts writers have joined together for a series of Valentines's Day posts on why we love martial arts.  Their links will be at the bottom of this post.  For me there is a two fold answer.

Mind, Body Connection.

  With everything in our modern society that pulls our attention in different directions, or requires us to separate out bodies from our mental activities, its good to go back to doing something that makes our bodies be fully integrated with our minds.  I don't care which martial art you are doing, but at some point in your training, your body has been physically trained well enough to do the techniques.  It is physically capable of doing the movements.  At some point, it becomes more about the mental or psychological portion of the art.  You have to start out thinking the opponent, rather than physically beating them.  And lets face it, everyone, as we get older, will eventually loose the physical portion.  However, if we can integrate our mental abilities into the techniques, they acquire a new, longer half-life and decay much slower.
  When practicing (or even using) your martial arts, your mind has to be 100% there for the physical parts to work correctly.  You cannot perform at your best if you are thinking about that TPS Report you have to write for work (Yeah, Office Space).  You force your mind to thing about only one thing, or even more so, one small detail of one thing.  This could be foot placement during a kick, or how to read the movement of an opponent's shoulder's to tell that he's attacking you.  Whatever it is, your mind has to be all there, or you won't perform at optimum levels.

If it was easy, everyone would do it.

    This may be a bit elitist of me, but by being a martial art, I am part of a unique group of people that enjoys struggling, and coming out better for it.  I've talked about this on the podcast, and I'm pretty sure I've said this on a post or two, but in our society where everything is becoming easier and safer, choosing to do something because it is more difficult, and has an inherent danger is becoming a rarity.  It's good to remember that life isn't always about safety, and that you can only appreciate the nice, safe things, by knowing about the bad, things.  By doing something that can, and will at some point, cause you injury and pain, you learn to appreciate life and everything good in it.  I can't believe that I'm quoting the LEGO movie, but EVERYTHING is Awesome.  Especially the difficult, hard stuff.

That's why I love martial arts.

If you liked this post, below are the other people that are posting on this same subject for V-D.

Mae-no-Sen by Katy Garden

A Beginner's Journey by Joelle White

The Stick Chick by Jackie Bradbury

Bamboo Spirit Martial Arts by Brian Johns